Meltdown Man – Daniel Bennett

Meltdown Man

Like the name of some poor bog body
curled up into leather and bone
or a shlocky B-movie monster
that’s what I called him
whenever he boarded the train.
He’d sway to the rails’ curves
popping lager cans like grenades,
his mouth warped into a sickle,
his jaw always primed for a punch.
I invented stories of regret
at every sight of him, poured
whole histories of lucklessness
into his pitiable frame,
so when I saw him around town
it only added to the joke. His face
mooning up over sandwiches
in my favourite cafe, or out
after work, when I would spy him
patrolling the evening streets.
Oh that jaw, those furious eyes!
Perhaps, I should have stopped him
even once, taken him in my arms
holding tightly as he struggled
against the squeeze of healthy reality.
Who knows? I might have saved him,
and through such benevolence
found a way to redeem the world,
but I wasn’t doing so well myself.

 

Daniel Bennett was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have been widely published, most recently in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 from Eyewear Books. He’s also the author of the novel, All the Dogs.

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Featured Publication – Northern Lights by Harry Gallagher

Our featured publication for November is Northern Lights by Harry Gallagher, published by Stairwell Books.

Northern Lights is a celebration of a world sculpted by industry and polished by grit now abandoned to archaeologists. Discover anew this tight close knit community as they were then and how they are now and of what they are truly capable of being. 

 

Cover_Northern_Lights

 

Ghost River

Cobbling over Hadrian’s trod,
going back, back, back
to river’s edge. Gulls idly
chatter with herons on bones
of conveyors, cranes, staithes
lodged in silt, water topped up
with ancient stevedore blood.

Ships playing pretend
that the old girl
is still thriving. Alive
with cries and roaring chains,
as virgin hulks slipaway
to Valparaiso or Cairo.

Off to countries never seen
by alchemists who hammered
shape into giants

 

Sinking

Who remembers you now, Mary Isabella?
Darling George, whose fingers straightened
your Sunday bonnet straws, no longer
parts the ivy on top of your headstone.

Taken at forty by the Lord at Church Pit;
not your children either,
cradled into the earth as babes,
tuberculosis’ little coughdrops.

All these sons and daughters
of Hartley Old Engine, West Farm,
being swallowed in death
by what took them in life.

Bones backfilling the hateful hollows
they themselves dug out, as the coaly
caverns take everything back beneath
a greening Northumberland churchyard.

 

Two Boys Play in Evening Sea at Cullercoats Bay

No notion that they
are making memories
to last the rest
of their livelong days
(and why would they?)

No vision of the shadows
of lost waggonways,
nor the artists’ colony
that once coloured Bank Top.

No idea the middleage
spread men with children
(that they will surely become)
will look back on these nights
with salting eyes,
wondering where the years went.

They see only the depths
of the harboured sea,
holding their forevers
around them

 

Terence

When I was at school, perfecting
the fine art of disappearing;
blending into blackboards, coat pegs,
white lined tarmac and the bonding
to be had in inventing nicknames,
there you were. Ill fitting the backdrop;
a boy’s clothes not disguising
a voice and a manner which left you
no hiding place.

Sashaying in a hothouse
for the dragons it bred;
deliberately provoking
each beating you took.
Refusing to fit in with the rest,
who knew by instinct where
the invisible line was –
we picked it up and towed it.

Years later, long escaped,
I heard about you from my mum:
That Terence – he drowned in a canal, you know.
Well he was always a queer sort.

 

‘Terence’ has been previously published by Black Light Engine Room Press.

Harry Gallagher has been published by Interpreter’s House, Prole, Poets’ Republic, Rebel Poetry and many others. He has 3 pamphlets to his name and now this first full collection from Stairwell Books. He runs the Tyneside Poetry Society stanza group. Website: https://harrygallagherpoet.wordpress.com

Northern Lights (Stairwell Books, 2017) can be purchased from: http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/html/collections.html#NorthernLights

Dear Clent – S.A. Leavesley

Dear Clent
 
Mist unfolds from your slopes’
envelopes of valley and sky.
Above winter peaks, the black script
of trees and bird flight.

My faltering steps
and words overshadowed
by the wind’s stone-swept stutters,
lost in crackles of fern and bracken.

Past snatches of nettle burn,
Sunday morning legs, summer sweat
and vista-slapped gasps –
moments

un-landscaped
yet shaping the knit of my bones.
Distilled from your hills’ daily moods
and light filtered through leaves,

a sense of peace, essence of me.
It should be easy – to keep
in touch, write home with love,
remember,

return…maybe.
Like this land, I’ve learned to live
with distance, and never sign off
without leaving

something hanging –
a raindrop, a branch, a ledge
at the edge, in hope
of a steady handhold.

 

S.A. Leavesley is a poet, fiction writer, journalist, photographer, editor. Her latest books: ‘plenty-fish’ (Nine Arches Press, shortlisted in International Rubery Book Awards 2016) ‘Lampshades & Glass Rivers’ (Overton Poetry Prize 2015 winner) and a novella, ‘Kaleidoscope’. Her website is at: www.sarah-james.co.uk.

Dolls of Chaos – Maggie Mackay

Dolls of Chaos

Somewhere consigned to shadow
in the nervous system of my childhood brain
a collection of paper dolls huddle,
thrawn Shikigami beings

one feline-featured with retractable claws,
whiskers varnished snow-white
another on twenty-four-hour watch,
yellow wings tucked into raggedy coal-black lining

the third, a mousey creature of tiny ears
and pencil-thin body, waistcoat of velvet-grey
and boss of those three, Fox Trot,
fur etched with blood sticky plots.

They cause mischief to haunt every hour.
Cut-outs from my infancy,
they mess with human heads,
spin them full circle.

Let me give orders,
let them steal, spy and track
the bullies, deceivers,
you enemies of my curious world.

 

Maggie Mackay has work in print and online including The Everyday Poet edited by Deborah Alma, Amaryllis, Bare FictionIndigo Dreams PublishingThe Fat Damsel, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, I am Not a Silent Poet, The Poetry Shed, Three Drops Press and Yorkmix.

Teddy Bear Heart – Lorraine Carey

Teddy Bear Heart
 
He sits on a wardrobe roof
doors and drawers of rich chestnut,
whose factory glaze faded with the calendars.
Sitting heavy with fallen dust,
giving his custard coat a layer of memories.

Spreadeagled, beleaguered, amber eyes
watch my every move. I stood in the room
where carpet curled over and mould hugged the skirting.
The acrid tang of neglect stung, wrapped around me
and clutched curtains, hung in the creases.

I sat and recalled the radiator’s rattles
when she relented and switched on the oil,
even though two fires burned
with crumbly peat and nuggets of coal.
A furry master of all he surveys, in his best pose

between a home computer and foot spa – good as new.
You had to come back with all you ever owned
and dying a bit more each new day, you slept it off,
your teddy watching from his throne. I wonder is he still there,
or placed in a see through bag with all the others, missing you
like I do.

 

Lorraine Carey is an Irish poet from Co. Donegal. Her poetry has featured in the following: The Honest Ulsterman, Poethead,  Proletarian, Vine Leaves and Live Encounters, among others. Her debut collection From Doll House Windows was published in May.

A Bibliophile’s Heaven – Susan Castillo Street

 A Bibliophile’s Heaven 

Room after room after room
of stories, lives bound in vellum
and gilded letters.  The smell of dust

and leather.  Slanting rays of sun
falling from high windows.
I would lie back on a chaise longue

feet up, while a conga line of Clooneys
pours me goblets of fine champagne
and a legion of Clark Gables

fetches every book that takes my fancy.
My fingers would caress their spines,
savour their margins,
never stop at endings

 

Susan Castillo Street is Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emerita, King’s College London.  She has published three collections of poems, The Candlewoman’s Trade (Diehard Press, 2003), Abiding Chemistry,  (Aldrich Press, 2015), and Constellations (Three Drops Press, 2016), as well as several scholarly monographs and edited anthologies. Her poetry has appeared in Southern QuarterlyProleThe High WindowInk Sweat & TearsMessages in a BottleThe Missing SlateClear PoetryThree Drops from a CauldronFoliate OakThe Yellow Chair ReviewPoetry Shed, and other journals and anthologies.

221 Pershore Road – sometime in the early 90’s – Matt Nicholson

221 Pershore Road – sometime in the early 90’s
 
Waking from those too fast,
ashtray-kissed nights,
to days that fizzed
too loud, like cherryade,
to days that were almost
and yet already done.

Sitting there, in sunshine,
on brick-burst, red-dust walls,
we swung legs
in cocky syncopation
with soft, imagined,
half-learned beats.

And today,
when our song broke into my chest,
staining ragged jeans once more
with lichen and brick-dust,
I made mosaic of shining memories
from old notebooks and glue,

for my half-remembered
you.

 

Matt Nicholson is a poet from East Yorkshire…where the culture comes from…His collection “There and back to see how far it is” was published by King’s England Press in October 2016. (http://www.kingsengland.com/there-and-back-to-see-how-far-it-is-c2x21548033) Twitter:@MattPoetHull

The Swan Maiden – Stella Wulf

The Swan Maiden

I was reared in a cob and straw clutch
a plot hatched from a jaundiced yolk,
laid on the hollow of her dead belly,
or that’s what he told me.
‘No one wants an ugly duckling,’ he said.

Pinioned by his earthly needs,
I lumbered to his call. Night
after night, I let fly my bombilations,
a trumpeting lament, taken up
by the wind, threshing on a wing chord.

A dawning sun rises in my gorge,
sears the salt lakes of my eyes,
beats at my body’s cage.
My gut unravels – knots to a skein,
catching my breath in its mesh

as I lift from his battered chest,
a pellicle of white skin and down,
a pleated vane of coverts,
the earthy scent of summer rain,
pulsing a madness through my veins.

Slipping back into the stolen shift,
I open my wings, stretch out my neck,
taste the iron in the spreading pool,
observe my reflection in the slick.
‘See now, how fair I am?’

 

Stella’s poems have been published both in print and online magazines and appear in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops from a cauldron, and the Clear Poetry Anthology.

Imagining a Changed Place – Margaret Adkins

Imagining a Changed Place

If it’s me that ends up alone
at our breakfast table

I’ll still eat an apple, slowly baked
the night before, with honeyed

nuts in yogurt. But I’ll focus on the wren
outside, finding tiny fragrant

spiders tucked up in rosemary
blooms – and when she sings, I’ll watch

her nebule of breath
evaporate.

I will set your chair
far enough back – for you to fill it.

 

In 2017 Margaret Adkins’ poems featured in The Fat Damsel, Algebra of Owls and three anthologies: This Is Not Your Final Form (Emma Press) A Bee’s Breakfast (Beautiful Dragons Press) and Physic Garden (Palewell Press). She had a poem commended in the Welshpool Poetry Competition.

Salt – Cheryl Pearson

Salt

The deer steps slow like a creature
new to legs. I know that kind of care,
watch as she delicately lifts and settles
each stem of herself. I could pour
into her. Those stars on her back
are the freckles that rise – the dipper,
the bear – on my shoulder. And now,
see, as she stops by the lick of salt
I left at the fence: a slice of sea for her.
How she curls her tongue around
my world as I hold my breath in hers.

 

Cheryl Pearson lives in Manchester. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Southword, Under The Radar, The High Window, and Poetry NorthWest. Her first full poetry collection, “Oysterlight”, was published by Pindrop Press in March 2017.